Fort Mill Town Council has a decision to make on up to 2,900 more homes and apartments planned along Spratt Street and Fort Mill Parkway.
Former U.S. Rep. John Spratt owns more than 700 acres there. He and partners presented a plan Wednesday night to add residential, commercial and recreation space in a new mixed-use development.
“The question is, what is Fort Mill going to do to be master of its own future?” Spratt asked the town planning commission, which recommended in favor of the plan Wednesday night. “This is not a final solution by any means, but it’s part of the solution.”
Spratt, a descendent of Thomas “Kanawha” Spratt, considered the first European settler in this area in the mid-18th century, served in the U.S. House for three decades before he was defeated by Indian Land Republican Mick Mulvaney in the so-called tea party wave of 2010. Spratt has not sought public office since.
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The plan would annex almost 688 acres along the bypass and rezone them from light industrial to mixed use in the town. Another 23 acres already in town and currently zoned for residential would be rezoned to mixed use. Then, a development agreement would allow for up to 1,700 single-family homes, up to 1,200 “other residential” units, between 250,000 and 500,000 square feet of commercial construction, more than 60 acres of park and recreation space, more than 60 acres of open space and three acres to expand the town’s nearby wastewater treatment plant.
The project would have a 20-year build-out. Spratt and business partners plan to sell the land to a developer during the first or second quarter of 2017.
The massive project would dwarf even the largest residential projects in recent years. The Spratt property would bring about 900 more new residences than the Massey and Waterside subdivisions combined.
In 2010, Fort Mill had less than 4,500 residences total.
“The big question that everyone is thinking about is schools and traffic,” said James Traynor, planning commission chair.
The commission’s recommendation included upping the minimum lot size from 30 to 40 feet and requiring at least 15 percent of the residences be age-restricted to seniors. The submitted plan states at least 15 percent will be age-restricted or “age-targeted.” Age-restricted would guarantee to bring seniors who would presumably have less impact on schools and traffic, while age-targeted would not.
“In my mind, there’s a huge difference between age-targeted and age-restricted,” said Tom Petty, planning commission member.
The crowd Wednesday signaled the importance of the property to the town’s future. Along with the former congressman, the mayor and four town council members sat in on the planning commission presentation. The Fort Mill Town Council has final say on the annexation, rezoning and development agreement.
A public hearing is expected June 13. That’s the date on annexation hearing notices posted in the area along Spratt Street and Fort Mill Parkway.
In recent years when other large residential projects have come up for annexation and rezoning, council members spoke of not wanting to add so many homes, but feeling they had little choice because county zoning allowed for more residences. Without annexation, that would impact the town without also providing tax revenue, they argued.
This proposal is different.
The largest portion of the project is zoned light industrial in the county, which doesn’t allow for residential use. Spratt’s team painted the decision as one between the mixed use proposal and possible manufacturing or warehouse facilities bringing large trucks through the riverfront area.
Approving a land change from non-residential to residential use would be a departure for some town leaders based on past votes and comments.
“That was what struck me, powerfully,” Traynor said.
Hynek Lettang, the lone planning commission vote against recommending annexation and rezoning, said even the most conservative estimates imaginable show miles of new traffic from the property.
“That’s a tremendous amount of road traffic,” he said. “I don’t think you need a study to tell you that’s a tremendous burden on the system.”
Yet several neighboring property owners spoke in favor of the plan Wednesday, with reasons ranging from the need for more athletic field space to overall property owner rights to develop land how owners see fit.
“We’re very happy to see this plan and are glad to know that it will be thoughtfully developed,” said resident Jim Scott.
Each part of the plan still needs to approvals from town council, plus the public hearing.